Here at JimmyD’s we like to read, but we can’t read everything. Magda is a keen enthusiast of Scandinavian crime (and Fred Vargas, the French crimestress with the strange name), but my own (Agnes) favourite crime writers are Raymond Chandler and his contemporaries. L’yan knows a lot more about fantasy, but I for one wouldn’t know a David Eddings if it fell out of the sky and clocked me on the head (maybe I should do something about that, and I probably will, but after I investigate the hundred or so books and authors and series I mean to look into in the near future).
Here at JimmyD’s we like books, but we couldn’t possibly have time to read our way throuh every book in the shop, and there are people considerably more qualified to (say) tell us just what distinguishes a King Penguin from a boring old Penguin Classic.
Do YOU want to have your say? Submit a book review to JimmyD’s by commenting on one of our entries. Just tell us what you thought of a book in the comments, even — you don’t have to write something worthy of the New York Times Book Review, but of course if you can you’re more than welcome. The best book review (or comment) each and every month will receive a) our praise and b) a book voucher. Oh, and it’ll be displayed in pride of place in the window.
So what are you waiting for?!?! Get writing!
See the little speech bubble at the top right of the post, next to the title? Click that to leave a comment.Filed under BOOKS | Tags: Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (1)
Two books I selected from our shelves that contain typical Byronic heroes. Wondering how I linked these together?
You may not know what I’m talking about, but you know the type. That’s the thing with stereoypes, with heroes, with protagonists. We may not have a term for these things, but we all know the type.
The typical Byronic hero is idealised but flawed. Lord Byron, for whom the Byronic hero is named, was the first “modern-style” celebrity, and nowadays he’d be characterised in the media as a rock star. His ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb famously described him as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, and this is the essence of the Byronic hero.
The Byronic hero is intelligent, cunning, and maybe even criminal. Crucially these more negative characteristics are set off by something negative, perhaps a tendency toward introspection and moodiness, or a streak of cowardice (perhaps just realism) or narcissism. Consider Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind. He is shunned by his family for being thrown out of West Point, yet is obviously well-educated. He has an adversarial relationship with many characters, and his insight into human nature prevents him from salvaging his love for Scarlett. Cue bitter tears.
The Byronic hero is also intelligent, astute and educated, yet he or she (usually he) struggles with integrity, often bucking convention and suffering for it. Byronic heroes are usually physically attractive and generally in love with someone, but (again, most importantly) often are burdened with a dark secret or source of guilt. Consider Stephen Dedalus from the works of James Joyce. Stephen is considered by his friend Buck Mulligan to be a great poet, but he cannot seem to relate to many people very well. He is extremely guilty over the fact that he could not pray for his mother as she lay on her death bed – his stubborn moral decisions about religion (among other things) prevented him from doing this).
The Byronic hero may be privileged (socially or in terms of money) but will show a disregard for social conventions and their own responsibilities.
The Byronic hero often has an understanding of his of her inner world, but may be overburdened thus. You’re beginning to see a pattern, right? You know a character like this.
To further explore this, I’ll first tell you about some boring literary stuff. Then we’ll talk about some real (fictional) Byronic heroes.
Scholars have traced the tradition of the Byronic hero from the works of John Milton. Milton published the twelve-book version of his epic poem Paradise Lost in 1674. It is heavily concerned with the conflict between God’s foresight and omnipotence and man’s free will.
It wasn’t until the American and French revolutions and the Romantic period that people really began to sympathise with Satanic characters. In 1819 Percy Shelley (a contemporary of Byron) put forth that Milton’s Satan was morally superior to the tyrranical God of the poem. Most crucially, he said that Satan’s greatness of character is flawed (again) by vengefulness and pride. Byron wrote a semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem from 1812 to 1818, called Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Many of the elements of the Byronic hero are in this: a world-weary character who searches for enlightenment in foreign lands.
That’s crucial to the characterisation of the Byronic hero. The Byronic hero is flawed, and the “but” in the character’s description is very important. Brilliant BUT self-destructive, moral BUT with a Dark Secret, full of integrity but dark and mysterious, etc etc. Consider Bruce Wayne of Batman.
A few more examples: Rochester in Jane Eyre is a typical Byronic hero. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights is also a popular example (a larger than life dark-and-handsome romance who never wavers from his goal), as well as Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. The heroes of many hard-boiled detective novels, as I discussed here, are similarly flawed. Sam Spade is a contemporary example of the Byronic hero, as is Philip Marlowe. You might also consider the titular Doctor House from the TV series House to be a similar hero — he’s brilliant but, as you probably would have guessed by now even if you don’t watch the show, Tragically Flawed in more ways than one. Gothic fiction was bursting with Byronic heroes, as are spaghetti Westerns such as The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Consider also the Phantom of the Opera and the Vampire Lestat. The Modernist era also gave rise to a lot of Byronic heroes
Byronic heroes are a lot more interesting than your regular old white-knight hero, and there’s still usually an element of romance there… the carefully tousled hair, the enigmatic secrets, etc etc.
The Byronic hero fits into the larger genre of the antihero, which we might take a look at next time. The Byronic hero usually has an air of sweeping romance about him or her — their tragic flaws are never so tragic that you don’t adore the character eventually.
A very contemporary example is Edward Cullen from the Twilight series. And now I seem to have linked pop culture with high culture, and so I’ll finish there.
If you got the whole way through that — congratulations!
-AgnesFiled under Books that deserve a look, Boost your brain | Tags: Classic Crime, Literature, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (0)
2009 is the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. I was reminded of this fact when I recently bought a new copy of Obama’s inaugural address, which contained a copy of both of Lincoln’s inaugurals as well as the Gettysburg Address. Very interesting reading. The bicentennial isn’t the only reason Lincoln is interesting, of course. It might take an event such as this to get Australian readers (apart from Civil War historians and others) interested in him, but he contributed massively to the American national imagination. I enjoyed seeing Obama’s inauguration speech set out on a page, because this way I could see echoes of Lincoln in what he said. I won’t make any more Obama/Lincoln comparisons, since they’ve been done to death.
Even if you’re not as interested in this part of history (and its echoes today) as I am, you’ll enjoy the suspense and real-life-crime aspect of this book. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Abraham Lincoln’s Killer. It’s very exciting, and completely avoids the dry bogging-down in details that some well-researched historical books fall into. Very exciting, a good historical account of an important point in US history. If you’re looking for a book that will make history exciting to anyone, or you’re just interested in US history, this is a book for you.Filed under Books that deserve a look | Tags: History, Recycled Books, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (0)
This is a rather long review: You can read a short summary here, or scroll down to read the whole shebang.
A very interesting book that challenges (vehemently) the way we think about art and politics. Prepare to have your opinion challenged — what is avante-garde? What is popular art? Read the whole thing, or dip in using the index. Perfect for anyone who likes thinking about culture, but I think it would be especially particularly useful to the “unique post-modern aesthete” that most of us know. $10, a bargain for some meaty summer reading!
An interesting book, this one. You take one look at the cover (picture of the Venus de Milo with a bikini textaed on) and the title and think it’s going to be a pop-culture journey, one of those books that’s all about travelling from the audience of The Price is Right in America to the set of a strange Japanese game show, via a fashionable Kaballah ceremony in Los Angeles and a shopping village in London. Which is fine — I love books like that. They critique culture while they’re immersed in it, and other such fashionable sociological terms. But you only need glance at the subtitle of this book (Quantulumcunque Concerning Materialist Esthetix) and you know this book is… different from that. Is it a parody? Is it a serious, weighty tome? Will the inside be peppered with incomprehensible graphs and even longer made-up words, or with semi-pornographic images in the name of “cultural exploration”)?
I took a gulp of coffee and decided to take a look. First of all I got a bit worried that in my first cursory look I might have overlooked some crucial piece of irony or satire, so I jumped on Google and had a look what some other reviewers (most considerably more informed than I am) had to say.
One reviewer on Amazon.com described the book as “dizzyingly brilliant”. “Okay,” I thought, “As long as I don’t read it while I’m standing up, I’ll be fine”. I wouldn’t want to fall over and hurt something. I ponder exactly what that “dizzyingly” means. Is the book utterly incomprehensible? Or just brilliant?
I further learn that the book is a “treatise on aesthetics”, and further that it is “stridently polemical”. In other words, it’s a book that seeks to be deliberately controversial as it defines aesthetics, our art, our perceptions of beauty. What sort of aesthetics? Does the author try to make sweeping generalizations about culture? At the end of this little research session I’d decided that the book must be quite meaty – but well-researched and probably relevant. No equating Hollywood divorces with the decline of culture or something like that – a dissection of what makes the artistic sensibilities of “our culture” (I put that in inverted commas because there are so many cultures you see mentioned in the news every day) tick. Thusly armed, I opened the book to take a look.
…And then my head exploded. Nah, only kidding.
The first couple of pages aren’t so much incomprehensible as they are “murky”. What is this guy trying to say? The Amazon reviewer I quoted before also mentioned that the book is “…food for difficult thought”. From the first pages, Watson is trying to change the way we think about art. Brian Eno, an artist who many people see as a benchmark of the Avant-Garde, is dismissed as “easy listening”. Dr Dre and Stevie Wonder engage in “materialism of sound”.
In the Introduction Watson explains that “…in today’s rapidly changing world [this is one of my least favourite sentences, but I won’t hold it against Watson since he has much more important things to say], the objective separation of manual and mental labour has resulted in a raw and painful Cleavage between the sciences that deal with Art (aesthetics) and Class (politics)”. Sorry if you read all this way thinking a that the “cleavage” of the title was actual cleavage — it isn’t. It’s metaphorical cleavage, though, which is even cooler. I imagine, (as I think Watson wants the audience to) two statue boobs, one emblazoned with the word “Art”, the other with the word “Class”. Cultural aesthetic, indeed.
This book is really, really interesting stuff, and to say that it is full of hard-to-read overpolitical raves would be to sell it short. Watson has some very important social critiques, and he organizes his thoughts well even if he does trend slightly toward ranting. In fact, I would hazard that most knee-jerk criticisms of the book probably stem from the fact that Watson doesn’t hesitate to shake the foundations of people’s perceptions of art, and it might be a hard (but necessary!) thing to hear that you are not as original or avant-garde as you think you are, that your supposedly apolitical idea of art is anything but. I think aesthetics need to be challenged, and Watson does it well.
You don’t have to attack this book from front to back. I quite enjoyed leafing through the (well-appointed) index and checking on what Watson has to say on certain subjects. And he does have a lot to say. Watson is anti-elitist, so it’s a good idea to look past his initial political ranting and take what he has to say at face value, since it’s very important. He uses a lot of footnotes, but in an entertaining way, as a way to comment on what he’s saying in the text, not supply a dry extension.
I think this book is perfect for anybody who likes to think about pop culture (and art) in an analytical way. And if you’ve got a friend or family member who’s stuck in one of those terrible ruts where they’ve convinced themselves that they’re member of an enlightened post-modern aesthetic of uniqueness, you might want to show this to them, too. It’s a great, audacious book that is meant to challenge our perceptions of ourselves and of our art, instead of back-patting and shoring up snobby opinions. I can’t wait to delve deeper into it, it’s very complicated and I’m sure I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
The book is $10 and you can find it in the shop today! What a bargain for some intellectual summer reading!
-Agnes.Filed under BOOKS, Books that deserve a look | Tags: Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comments Off
The station master of my local train station is nice enough to provide a “book table” for the use of patrons. The idea is that you bring in your old books (as a second-hand book-seller in training all I can say is that these are usually not the cream of the crop) and take a book to read on the train occasionally. It’s an honour system. There are usually a whole lot of nice old National Geographics, a few Reader’s Digest condensed books (don’t you think it’d be weird to have a job as a book condenser?), stuff like that. Occasionally you get a nice gem. I’ve picked up a few Sherlock Holmes books, and a couple of science fiction classics.
The other day I picked up a copy of Elizabeth George’s book Well Schooled in Murder. I already had a book in my bag (I’m in the habit of setting my iPod to shuffle and reading to and from the city), but since I’m an omnivorous reader and I vaguely recognised the title and blurb from an ABC drama I’d seen a few years earlier — an Inspector Lynley mystery — I decided to read the book on the train.
The train pulled in to Central and I was three-quarters of the way through, and I was a bit iffy on Elizabeth George. She was one of those authors who I couldn’t decide whether I liked or disliked. The book’s narrative got along fine, but I couldn’t decide whether the descriptions were apt or just plain weird. I finished the book, and I still couldn’t decide. Occasionally I research authors in this fashion, seeking out whether or not they’re worth reading a lot of. Crime fiction is so easy to read that it’s a lot easier to form a complete picture of the author’s shortcomings and strengths very quickly. This is compared to someone like, say John Irving or Faulkner.
I picked up a copy of In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner from the library, since I was “experimenting” and didn’t want to buy it. Well, dear reader, if you’ve read this far into this post I’m going to reward you by telling you that it was absolutely DIRE.
George is an American, and that shows through in her over-exaggerated treatment of Cockney accents and London in general. Inspector Lynley’s friend Simon St. George (can you think of a more cliche` English toff name?) was crippled! In an accident! Years ago! and Lynley feels the need to emote about it much more than I feel his background as a count or an earl or whatever would evince.
Inspector Lynley seemed to be the most balanced character to me, and I will admit that the idea of an English Lord working as a police detective was one of the things that got me interested in the novels in the first place, in a similar way to the TV series — sort of like a crime fiction version of Carter on ER.
In contrast his sidekick Barbara Havers is overburdened with unattractive descriptions. In attempting to inject some traditional British class division into the book George has made Lynley into some sort of James Bond type while Havers chain-smokes and constantly eats bad food. Not even her POV is sympathetic to her, so I feel a bit sorry for the character.
I didn’t finish the second book. I felt like I got derailed by the high drama going on in the character’s lives, and the murder mystery was so bland in contrast that it didn’t interest me one iota. One jot!
I’m confident that our crime fiction section at JimmyD’s is extensive. When I first came into the shop I was pleased that it encompassed all the crime sub-genres: classic crime, real-life crime, cheesy crime, thrilling crime, procedural crime, cosy crime… The cheesy crime section I feel is well represented by the five or so Elizabeth George books that we have in stock, including In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner.
My question is this: what were your experiences with Elizabeth George? Should I keep reading? Are her “off” moments worth the rather gripping storylines in her other books? Am I being a crime fiction snob – am I too spoilt by P. D. James? Discuss for your chance to win a voucher at JimmyD’s.
- Agnes.Filed under BOOKS, Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Cool Crime Writers, The Crime Fiction Detective, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comments Off
This book was chosen as Notable Book by both the New York Times and the Washington Post.
On the frontispiece Brooks quotes a poem by John Dryden recounting “…When spotted deaths ran arm’d through every street” — a vision of the plague striking London in 1666. He called this poem the Annus Mirabilis, The Year of Wonders. This titular “year of wonders” is obviously a thread that runs strong through the book. We follow the protagonist, Anna (a housekeeper in the small mountainous village of Eyam) through the plague year of 1666 and beyond. In the beginning the plague is only vaguely referred to, but as you work through the book the historical detail becomes more precise and very graphic. I was intruiged by the fact that the plague was bought to Eyam via an infected bolt of cloth. The ending isn’t disastrous but Brooks doesn’t sell it out to the cheap trick of a happy ending, either. As a whole the book manages to remain realistic through a sweeping, dramatic narrative.
In summary: A good read, well-researched, an interesting and breathless book by an Australian author.
If you like this book, we have some other books in stock that you might like:
Wrack by James Bradley, a gripping historical mystery set in New South Wales.
Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks.
In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, set in 16th Century Venice.
L’Yan recommends this book for people who like Salley Vickers, Kate Grenville, David Malouf and Valerie Anand.
AgnesFiled under Awesome Aussie Authors, BOOKS, Books that deserve a look | Tags: Aussie Author, History, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (0)
This story is a wonderful idea, but it is quite poorly executed. Firstly, the plot is mindnumbingly predictable. Secondly, the characters are infuriatingly cliched, from the big tough “villain” that comes good in the end (don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away here, as this is predictable too), to the typically sexy love interest and the bee-yootiful narrator. Yawn. Lastly, I do not understand Stephenie Meyer’s fixation on young girls having relationships with older men. (Even though I am one of these girls myself. How hypocritical of me. Oopsie.) The whole book stinks of formula writing – “dark” themes, “forbidden” lurve etc etc etc. But I guess if you’re onto a good thing, why not stick with it. It seems to work for her!
Yet despite all of the things I disliked about the book (including its creepy cover with an eye that follows you around the room!), I must admit, I didn’t hate it. I could hardly put it down. It is a monster of a book and I was able to read it in two days, around work, which doesn’t often happen. I felt an odd kind of affection for it, and even though I was reading it for work I also felt like I wanted to keep reading it, even though it irritated me. Now that’s a powerful book. With, might I add, not one spelling or punctuation error that I noticed. Hurray!
Verdict: not just for diehard Stephenie Meyer fans (I haven’t read Twilight or seen the film). But you need to be patient and somewhat forgiving. And remember it was written for a teenage market. You might just enjoy it, as I surprisingly did.
L’YanFiled under BOOKS, Books that deserve a look | Tags: Bad Covers, Recycled Books, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (0)
Edited by Eugene Stockton
In 1788 the Aborigines of the Blue Mountains had had no contact with Europeans; within 30 years almost all of them had disappeared.
Of the generations of new Mountain dwellers who followed, few appreciated the Aboriginal heritage of the region, even though evidence of their presence was known from the Nepean River and the adjacent escarpment.
Increasingly however, widespread discoveries of art sites, occupation shelters, stone tools, axe-grinding grooves and stone arrangements, research into the journals and early writings of European explorers and settlers, and the compilation of oral histories, are providing a rich, if incomplete, account of the former existence of the Gundungurra and Dharug in the Blue Mountains.
This book gathers together the current information about Blue Mountains aborigines. It provides a fascinating account of lifestyles, languages, legends and European contact.
Available at JimmyDs Bookshop.
In May 2006 Lincoln Hall, who lives in the Blue Mountains, was thought to have died on his way back down Mt Everest. He was left behind by his fellow climbers, only to be discovered next morning by another party. Before that he had made an attempt on the mountain in 1984.
” it was the goal of a small team of Australians. They planned a quick, lightweight ascent of an unclimbed route without oxygen. But their battle with storms, avalanches, extreme cold and thin air meant they soon began to run out of time. WHITE LIMBO is a compelling story of danger and the incredible limits of human endurance. Published more than two decades ago, it continues to be a true adventure classic.” From Booktopia
Retail price new $19.95 our price recycled $12.00
This book has SOLDFiled under Awesome Aussie Authors, Books that deserve a look | Tags: Aussie Author, Blue Mountains, Recycled Books, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (0)